There was nobody there.
Except for one person.
There was once a politician who was gearing up to give the speech of his life. He spent countless months writing and reciting his speech, he spent thousands of dollars to rent the largest stadium in town, and spent even more in mass advertising through flyers, posters postcards, billboards, online social networks, television commercials, and every other conceivable method of attracting people.
The long-awaited day came, and the politician soon made his way to the stage, trembling with anticipation. He put on his carefully crafted smile and slowly turned to the crowd.
There was nobody there. Except for one person.
After all of that careful planning, only one person had chosen to come?! The man dropped his head in despair and he frantically searched his spinning mind to think of what went wrong. “Ah, it must have been the timings”, he mused. “Perhaps I must have printed the wrong dates”. He settled comfortably into his stage armchair and waited for his supposed legions of fans to arrive.
An hour went by, and then another, but not a single other person came to the event except for that one man sitting in the far corner, still patiently waiting. As the politician deliberated whether or not to cancel the event, he decided to ask the lone attendee whether or not he should go ahead with the program. No sooner did he walk over to him and blurt his question did he realize that the attendee was not even well-to-do; he was just one of those poor farmers and had probably just gotten lost and entered the wrong place.
He began to dearly wish he had never asked the farmer as talking to this thick-headed bloke would just be a waste of time. His silent prayers that this farmer would just agree came to an abrupt stop as the farmer merely shrugged and said,
“Well, if I had many bales of hay and had found only one cow in the barn, I would still make sure to feed that one cow.”
The politician went ahead and gave his speech.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in a situation in which we have something of value that others do not have; it may be some vocational skills, access to an exclusive resource, or some Islamic knowledge. Even though we see that it may be of benefit, we do not go ahead and share it. Why? Because the level of expectation was too high; it was either the limelight or no light at all. We hear of millions of Muslims, but we feel that our influence and our message is not even reaching in the dozens.
This attitude of quantity needs to change, and we can even see this in marketing gurus, such as Seth Godin, that are advocating that the days of mass marketing are over, and that we should rather concentrate on our niche communities and that we lead our ‘tribes’. Even look at the premier Muslim academic institutions in the West and you will see that AlMaghrib Institute’s founder, Shaykh Muhammad AlShareef, has begun DiscoverULife and AlKauthar Institute’s founder, Shaykh Tawfique Chowdhury has begun VisionWeavers. Why? It is because people are slowly realizing that it’s not all about appealing to the masses. Yes, it is essential for Muslims to carry out their divinely ordained command to guide and lead the people, but it is also important to realize that leaders are influenced and crafted with personal attention. It is because of this that AlMaghrib Institute, with seminars in UK, USA, and Canada, and AlKauthar Insitute, with seminars in five continents, are still creating these specialized personal development courses.
Don’t worry about starting grand and rapidly flourishing; start with what resources you have, plan carefully, and move forward. Shaykh Yasir Qadhi said, “Never trivialize any good that you can do” so keep that in mind as you reach out to your community in whatever you can. Appeal to the crowds, but take note of potential leaders because they may be part of your future team. Continue to benefit from others in your quest to benefit others, for wisdom can come from anyone, even a poor farmer…
Picture by Jaako via Flickr.